Paco’s Mexican Cuisine Sundance Square, 156 W 4th St, FW. 682-224-6368. 11am-3pm Sun, 11am-9pm Mon-Wed, 11am-11pm Thu-Sat.
Seems like a little of that Near Southside magic is making its way downtown. Along with Melt Ice Creams and the studio/gallery Dang Good Candy, Paco’s Mexican Cuisine now has a Sundance Square address.
The restaurant has earned a reputation for serving high-quality authentic Mexican fare since opening on West Magnolia Avenue six years ago.
Paco’s second location was recently vacated by Revolver Taco Lounge and before that Taco Diner. The new, mostly naturally lit space is chic with kind of a shotgun-bar layout, tastefully and sparsely decorated with vibrant paintings, and furnished with minimalist wood chairs and tables.
After a sweat-inducing walk across Sundance Square from my parking spot to my lunch destination, I cooled off with a tamarindo agua fresca. Mildly sweet, it tasted a little like pear juice but without the typical tartness associated with tamarind drinks and candies.
The calamari came out first. Hefty and plentiful, the rings of fried squid were perfect — not too soft or dense — and the mango dipping sauce was muy picante.
The torta, served with a side of shoestring fries, was about the size of a deflated football. Though the bottom half of the large telera baguette was over-toasted and a bit hard, the sammy burst with flavor and a wide variety of textures, thanks to delicious cuts of soft fajita beef, ripe avocado wedges, crispy red onions, gooey queso fresco, and fiery sliced jalapeños.
The birria taco fad shows no sign of waning. Paco’s largely sticks to the winning formula that launched this Jalisco tradition’s fame in the states. Three thin crimson tacos filled with strings of juicy beef and mild Oaxaca cheese arrived alongside fluffy Spanish rice and refried beans. A side of rich consommé allowed for flavor-enhancing taco dunking. Only drawback: I was a little disappointed I couldn’t sub for the traditional goat meat.
The tlacoyos were new to me. The base of the entree was a bed of ground corn with the flavor and consistency of tamale masa. Over that chewy goodness sat a mound of diced onions, cilantro, queso fresco, avocado chunks, and drizzles of a thick and decadent tomatillo sauce. The waiter recommended adding a protein, so I sprung for the lightly seasoned, juicy chicken. The hefty dish would have worked fine without the meat.
Lightly breaded and smothered with dense queso blanco, the chile relleno, bathed in a rich, chunky roasted tomato sauce, was a real winner, and the large, plump, and flavorful shrimp on top were no afterthought.
After those savory experiences, the tres leches was a welcome end to an enjoyable lunch. The cake soaked in sweetened condensed milk was topped with a light whipped cream, making for a pleasant respite before another sweaty trek back across Sundance Square in Texas in the summer.
Paco’s Mexican Cuisine Sundance Square
Birria tacos $16
Chile relleno $16
Tamarindo agua fresca $4
Tres leches $3.75